11 Oct Best days of your cycle to… quit caffeine
- Key findings: If you want to cut back on caffeine, aim to start between Day 4 (four days from the start of your period) through ovulation because rising estrogen will reduce bothersome withdrawal symptoms.
OCTOBER 11, 2021—Trying to cut back on caffeine or cut caffeine out of your life altogether?
There are certain days in your menstrual cycle when it’s best to start ramping down on coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages. These days are Day 4 (4 days from the start of your period) through ovulation (typically Day 14 in a 28-day cycle).
On these cycle days, caffeine withdrawal symptoms–including irritability, mood swings, headaches, body aches and fatigue–tend to be less intense compared to what you’d experience in the second half of your cycle (the day after ovulation through the day before your next period).
What makes these days so special?
On these days in your menstrual cycle, estrogen rises, which improves mood, increases energy and dampens pain. All of these positive hormonal effects can help counter the negative withdrawal effects of caffeine, making them less severe.1
By contrast, during the second half of your cycle, estrogen drops twice and progesterone is elevated. This is a hormone combination that can worsen caffeine withdrawal symptoms, leading to bigger mood issues, such as sudden anger and weepiness, overwhelming fatigue and more intense headaches and body aches.
On top of all this, caffeine withdrawal can trigger stubborn constipation by slowing down movement in your digestive tract. Rising estrogen in the first half of your cycle helps move waste through your intestines, making it a tad easier to empty your bowels despite caffeine withdrawal, giving you another reason to time your caffeine ramp-down for Day 4 through ovulation.
Compare that to the second half of your cycle when elevated progesterone is already making it more difficult to excrete waste. If you add constipation-triggering caffeine withdrawal to that, you could be waiting days for a complete bowel movement, spurring uncomfortable belly pain and gas.
One hormonal caveat
Despite all the benefits of timing your caffeine quit date with Day 4 through ovulation, there is one important warning to keep in mind: If you fall off the wagon and indulge in your favorite caffeinated beverage or a larger amount than you’d allowed yourself in a few days, expect this caffeine hit to be far more pleasurable.
This is a side effect of rising estrogen, which spurs the brain to release more mood-lifting chemicals when you do anything enjoyable, such as drinking caffeinated coffee or tea.
As a result, this slip-up could make it more difficult to return to cutting back on caffeine because you’re finding it so immensely pleasurable.
One way to counter this: Have a plan in place ahead of time that helps you get back on track if you slip up. For example, hide the tea or coffee somewhere difficult to reach, giving you time to pause and think about whether you really want to start all over again from scratch with eliminating caffeine from your life.
You may have more fatigue…temporarily
Expect to feel more tired in the second half of your cycle for the first one or two cycles that you’re caffeine-free. What’s happening is that your body is getting used to the naturally sedating effects of elevated progesterone on these cycle days without caffeine to prop you up. Eventually, these cycle days will feel less tiring as your body adjusts to a caffeine-free life.
Until then, rely on healthy energy-boosters to get you through your day, such as light- to moderate-intensity exercise (such as a brisk walk), 100% fruit juice (such as orange juice or blueberry juice) and singing to up-tempo music, which all increase blood circulation, sending energizing oxygen throughout your body.
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Been wanting to cut back on caffeine or eliminate it from your life altogether? You’ll have the best luck when timing your caffeine ramp-down to start on certain days in your menstrual cycle–between Day 4 (four days from the start of your period) through ovulation. That’s because rising estrogen on these cycle days reduces bothersome caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Learn more: MyHormonology.com/best-cycle-days-to-quit-caffeine
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(1) Raina D. Pang, Nafeesa Andrabi, Adam M. Leventhal, “Premenstrual symptoms and factors implicated in smoking cessation among woman smokers,” Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 25 (2017): 235-241
Alicia M. Allen, et al., “Severity of withdrawal symptomatology in follicular versus luteal quitters: The combined effects of menstrual phase and withdrawal on smoking cessation outcome,” Addictive Behaviors, 35 (2010): 549-552
Kenneth A. Perkins, et al., “Tobacco withdrawal in women and menstrual cycle phase,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68 (2000): 176-180